A few months ago, the economic analyst Noah Smith observed scientific advances is like mining ore. You find a vein you think is promising. You take a risk and invest heavily. You explore it until it taps out.

The problem has been that over the last few decades only a few veins have really been paying off and changing lives.

Discoveries in information technology have obviously been massive - the Internet and the smartphone. Thanks in part to public investment, clean energy innovation has been fast and plentiful. The price of solar modules has declined by 99.6 percent since 1976.

But life-altering breakthroughs, while still significant, are fewer than they once were. If you were born in 1900 and died in 1970, you lived from the age of the horse-drawn carriage to the era of the man on the moon.

You saw the widespread use of electricity, air-conditioning, aviation, the automobile, penicillin, and so much else.

But if you were born in 1960 and lived until today, the driving and flying experience would be safer, but otherwise the same, and your kitchen, aside from the microwave, is basically unchanged.

In 2011, the economist Tyler Cowen published a prescient book, ''The great Stagnation,'' exploring why scientific advance was slowing down. Peter Thiel complained that we wanted flying cars, but we got TWITTER.

But this technological lull maybe ending. Suddenly a lot of smart people are writing about many veins that look promising. The first and most obvious is vaccines.

The amazing fact about Covid-19 vaccines is that Moderna scientists had designed the first one by Jan 13, 2020. They had the vaccine before many people even thought the disease was a threat.

It's not only a new vaccine but also a new kind of vaccine. The mRNA vaccines will help us teach our bodies to fight pathogens more effectively and could lead to breakthroughs in combating all sorts of diseases.

For example, researchers have hop for mRNA cancer vaccines, which wouldn't prevent cancer, but could help your body fight some forms.

The World Students Society thanks author David Brooks for his opinion.


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